Jesus Cleanses the Temple
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.
The Gospel of John, written in about 100 AD, differs markedly from the other gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke. The stories in this Gospel all have a deeper meaning. This incident, which is preceded by the story of the wedding at Cana and followed by the visit to Jesus of Nicodemus, is found in the other three gospels. However, in those gospels the incident comes after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
The feast of the Passover commemorated the liberation of the Israelites from slavery. Thousands of pilgrims would come from all over the world. They were required to pay temple tax in Roman currency. The money-changers exploited these pilgrims by charging them exorbitant exchange rates. And the doves, the only animal which poor people could afford to offer as a sacrifice, were sold at extortionate prices. The Temple was the centre of worship. The Jews were angry, because they felt that Jesus was acting without authority and that is why they asked him for a sign. In answer to their challenge, Jesus’ reference to the Temple is symbolic. Jesus’ anger was not because he disapproved of using the Temple as a place to trade. Instead, he was angry because people were being exploited in the name of religion.
Jesus did not underestimate the importance of the Temple; he was making a deeper point that religion was about much more than outward rituals, such as animal sacrifices.
Blessings as we remind ourselves of the importance of true worship of God and the importance of our temple, both literally and figuratively. Be safe! Be well! The Spirit has come!
- Can you think of examples in history and in the present day where people acted corruptly or unethically in the name of religion?
- What does this passage say about the way in which Christian faith is lived out in practice?